Mirko Gennai (Team BrCorse)’s late FP2 effort moved him to the top of the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship timesheets on Friday, while title contenders were placed throughout the combined classification for the Tissot Aragon Round. Championship leader Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki) was third overall while Petr Svoboda (Fusport – RT Motorsport by SKM – Kawasaki) was down in 20th place at MotorLand Aragon.
NOTHING TO SEPARATE THE PACK: all to play for at Aragon
Gennai had been down the order in FP1 but a last-gasp effort from the #26 hauled him into top spot in both FP2 and the combined classification as he set a 2’07.028s. The Italian was only 0.038s faster than Lennox Lehmann (Freudenberg KTM – Paligo Racing) in second after the German, who scored two podiums here last year, was fastest through the majority of the second practice session. Championship leader Buis was third as the Dutchman set a 2’07.216s, finding almost two tenths compared to his FP1 time where he took top spot. The top three were separated by just 0.188s to set up an unmissable weekend of Aragon action.
CLOSE TO THE FRONT: in podium contention?
Jose Manuel Osuna Saez (Deza-Box 77 Racing Team) surged up the order in FP2 to take fourth overall, only 0.241s down on his rivals, with Championship contender Dirk Geiger (Freudenberg KTM – Paligo Racing) in fifth. Geiger had been just behind teammate Lehmann in the standings throughout the afternoon but was demoted to fifth late on. Daniel Mogeda (Kawasaki GP Project) was sixth as he set a 2’07.436s.
ALL TO PLAY FOR: eight tenths between the top ten
Dutchman Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki) was seventh as he looks to make it consecutive rounds with podium finishes. He posted a 2’07.469s to finish a tenth ahead of Galang Hendra Pratama (Sublime Racing by MS Racing) in eighth. The Indonesian finished in the top six in FP1 and continued displaying his rapid pace as he took eighth in FP2, as well as the combined classification, with most riders improving their time in the afternoon. Ruben Bijman (Arco Motor University Team) took ninth with Samuel Di Sora (ProDina Kawasaki Racing) in tenth. The Frenchman was the highest-placed rider to not improve their time in FP2, with his 2’07.592s good enough for second in FP1.
CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS WITH WORK TO DO: aiming for Saturday progress
There were title contenders spread up and down the order. Matteo Vannucci (AG Motorsport Italia Yamaha) was 14th with Jose Luis Perez Gonzalez (Accolade Smrz Racing BGR) directly behind in 15th. Svoboda, currently fourth in the standings, finished 20th in the combined standings.
The top six from WorldSSP300 on Friday, full results here:
Nicolo Bulega (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) can be World Champion this weekend if results go his way and he certainly started on the front foot, with a fine showing in Free Practice 1 of 2023 FIM Supersport World Championship action at MotorLand Aragon. The #11 Ducati star was the rider to beat in the opening session but there’s a star-studded pack directly behind him.
Leading the way as he so often has in 2023, Bulega got down to business and was atop of the timing sheets for the majority of the session, eventually finishing with just under four tenths of a second as an advantage. However, there was some late drama as he ran off the track and through the gravel at the end of the back straight with less than five minutes to go but he was able to return to the pits. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) moved into P2, behind the bike he’ll be riding in 2024, whilst Federico Caricasulo (Althea Racing Team) was third ahead of Stefan Manzi (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) in fourth. Completing the top five, a solid effort by Bahattin Sofuoglu (MV Agusta Reparto Corse).
Sixth place honours went to Yari Montella (Barni Spark Racing Team), the last rider within a second of Bulega’s top time; Marcel Schroetter (MV Agusta Reparto Corse) made it two MV Agusta F3 800 RRs inside the top seven, whilst it was an eventful session for Raffaele De Rosa (Orelac Racing VerdNatura). The Italian suffered two crashes: the first at Turn 1 at the start of the session and a second at Turn 11 right at the end of the session but thankfully, walked away from both. Jorge Navarro (Ten Kate Racing Yamaha) took P9, whilst Dutch rider Glenn van Straalen (EAB Racing Team) was tenth ahead of top Triumph, Niki Tuuli (PTR Triumph).
Best WorldSSP Challenge rider Tom Booth-Amos (Motozoo ME AIR Racing) was 13th and he can wrap up the title this weekend, whilst John McPhee (D34G Racing) was 15th on his debut with Davide Giugliano’s team, deputising for the injured Oli Bayliss. Elsewhere, a second weekend back in action for Can Oncu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) left him in P23 after FP1.
The tenth round of the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is underway as the final quarter of the season begins. With windy conditions always a factor and the track conditions far from ideal on the opening morning of action, lap times were slightly slower than FP1 of 2022; the top six from the opening session were all attendees of the Aragon test, led by Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK).
Rea got down to a solid lap time straight away at a circuit where he’s been so successful at before and with P1 in FP1, the nine-time Aragon winner aims to add to the tally this weekend, having focussed his efforts during the Aragon test on the round itself. Honda had a strong session with Iker Lecuona (Team HRC) up into P2 at a circuit where the team should perform better, especially with the updated chassis being used again by the #7. After missing the opening five minutes or so, Danilo Petrucci (Barni Spark Racing Team) got out on track and instantly went top, eventually finishing third on a strong opening session, whilst Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW) made it four different manufacturers inside the top four and was once again the shining light for BMW. Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) completed the top five.
In sixth place and the first factory team with both riders inside the top half dozen, Team HRC’s Xavi Vierge was on form, rounding out a top six which was occupied by riders who attended the Aragon test in August, meaning that the foundations laid for them then are paying dividends. Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK) was P7, one place ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati), whilst it was Razgatlioglu’s teammate Andrea Locatelli in P9 and Philipp Oettl (Team GoEleven) in P10; the German rider was second-fastest in sector four, where Ducati are at their strongest. Substitute rider Florian Marino (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) took P13, whilst it was a struggle for the factory BMW riders of Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) and teammate Scott Redding, placed 16th and 19th respectively.
One of the key talking points about the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship is who will replace Jonathan Rea at the Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK squad next year. Rea’s bombshell move to Yamaha for the next two seasons opened up a seat at the team which has enjoyed so much success in recent seasons. Speaking during Free Practice 1 for the Aragon Round, Team Manager Guim Roda provided an update on KRT’s search for a new rider, revealing they’d contacted a long list of riders although he did not name names.
KRT have one rider in place for next year with Alex Lowes contracted for the 2024 season, but the name of his teammate has become a big unknown since the #65’s shock move to Yamaha which was announced at the start of September. Since then, speculation has been rife about who will replace the six-time Champion at KRT. Several riders have been linked with the team, but Roda didn’t namecheck any specific riders when asked about their search.
Discussing the latest from KRT as they look for a new teammate for Lowes, Roda explained during FP1: “We are checking the market. We have contacted two riders in MotoGP™, three riders in Moto2™ and five riders in WorldSBK. We are checking and in BSB we have contacts. We’re working on that and let’s see what our final decision is.”
One name who has been mentioned is Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) with the Italian addressing the rumours on Thursday at Aragon. The #47 confirmed he was talking with Kawasaki as he goes in search of a factory seat after a series of impressive performances since he made his debut in 2021. The 23-year-old has been a podium scorer on his Independent Ducati machine but has stated on multiple occasions he would like to ride for a factory team.
When Bassani’s name was put to Roda, he said: “There’s many riders we’ve been talking with. We need to check for contracts and what the final decision from Kawasaki is. For now, we’re open to all possibilities and I think it’ll take ten days or two weeks to fix the decision.”
The Tissot Aragon Round got underway with the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship’s Free Practice 1 session as Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki) topped the times by three tenths at MotorLand Aragon. The Dutchman, who has enjoyed so much success at the Spanish venue, was fastest after he edged close to the 2’06s bracket during the opening session of the weekend with the #6 looking to strengthen his grip on the title race at Aragon.
With three victories to his name already at MotorLand Aragon, Buis continued his strong form at the Spanish circuit in Free Practice 1 as he set a 2’07.295s, around a second off race lap record pace, to top the times. From the start, the #6 was quick as he found himself consistently at the top of the timesheets, eventually finishing three tenths clear of Samuel Di Sora (ProDina Kawasaki Racing) in second, who overhauled Alessandro Zanca (Team#109 Kawasaki) in the final 10 minutes despite the Italian’s strong start. Zanca finished 0.632s down on Buis.
Buis’ teammate, Loris Veneman, continued his strong form with fourth place as he set a 2’07.974s for fourth place. Matteo Vannucci (AG Motorsport Italia Yamaha) took P5 as he lapped 0.744s slower than the fastest lap, while Indonesia’s Galang Hendra Pratama (Sublime Racing by MS Racing) rounded out the top six. Just under a second separated the top six at the end of FP1.
Petr Svoboda (Fusport – RT Motorsport by SKM – Kawasaki) was seventh as he looks to get his title charge back on track. The Czech rider posted a 2’08.286s to finish inside the top ten, lapping a tenth quicker than Unai Calatayud (Arco Motor University Team) in eighth. Marco Gaggi (Team BrCorse) took ninth with a 2’08.429s with Lennox Lehmann (Freudenberg KTM – Paligo Racing), who pulled off two epic comebacks here last year, completing the top ten.
The top six from WorldSSP300 Free Practice 1, full results here:
1. Jeffrey Buis (MTM Kawasaki) 2’07.295
2. Samuel Di Sora (ProDina Kawasaki Racing) +0.297s
3. Alessandro Zanca (Team#109 Kawasaki) +0.632s
4. Loris Veneman (MTM Kawasaki) +0.679s
5. Matteo Vannucci (AG Motorsport Italia Yamaha) +0.744s
6. Galang Hendra Pratama (Sublime Racing by MS Racing) +0.949s
When something has been around for four decades, it’s usually because of a combination of inherent quality and general likability. Take a look at Rider magazine, for example. Next year, we celebrate our 50th birthday. There’s a reason for that. But quality doesn’t live in a vacuum. To survive – and even better, to thrive – there has to be change. Honda has succeeded in finding the next step in the evolution of the Honda Shadow Phantom, and the company hopes the changes, combined with a 40-year history, will help the bobber-style bike succeed in the middleweight cruiser market.
The Spirit of 750
The Honda Shadow was introduced in 1983 with two options. The larger of the two cruisers featured a liquid-cooled 745cc 45-degree V-Twin with SOHC and 3 valves per cylinder. It had a 6-speed gearbox, a slipper clutch, and shaft final drive. More than 19,000 Shadow 750s were sold that year.
There were several other chapters in the Shadow story, but if we’re following the lineage to the Phantom, significant mileposts included the shift to a 52-degree V-Twin in 1988 with the 583cc Shadow VLX. The 52-degree V found its way to the larger displacement 750cc Shadow ACE in 1998, which dropped down to a 5-speed gearbox, chain final drive, and no slipper clutch. The Shadow Phantom was introduced in 2010 with blacked-out styling (the exhaust was still chrome), the introduction of fuel injection, and a return to shaft drive.
The 2024 Honda Shadow Phantom sees the blacked-out styling now carried through the exhaust – a good look that represents a more modern appeal. It still features a liquid-cooled 745cc 52-degree V-Twin, but machine-cut cylinder head fins add a nice visual contrast that makes the engine pop. There’s also a new two-tone paint scheme on the tank (Deep Pearl Gray or Orange Metallic), LED turnsignals, fork boots, shortened fenders, and a new single seat (a passenger seat and footpegs are available as accessories).
Colin Miller, American Honda assistant manager of public relations, said members of Generations Y and Z are more attracted to Honda’s Rebel platform, partially because of its more aggressive styling, and Honda is leveraging some of that style with the Shadow Phantom. Whereas the Shadow Aero still has the more laid-back appearance of a traditional cruiser with a swept-back handlebar and more relaxed seating, the revamped Phantom takes a more contemporary approach, with a new handlebar and clamp that puts the rider in more aggressive forward position. A graphic during the presentation showed the handlebar position close to that of the Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight.
And from a customization standpoint, while the previous model’s rear fender and license plate holder was one piece that had to be cut if a customer wanted to make changes, the holder on the new model can be unbolted to aid customization.
Another significant update to the Phantom is its stopping power. Braking in the front is still provided by a 2-piston caliper gripping a 296mm disc, but the previous rear brake drum has been replaced by a 276mm disc and 2-piston caliper, and a new ABS version is available for an extra $300.
Front suspension travel has been increased by half an inch (to 5.1 inches) but remains the same 3.5 inches in the rear courtesy of dual shocks with five-position spring-preload adjustability. Otherwise, seat height is essentially the same at a very cruiser-like 25.6 inches. Even though fuel capacity has been bumped 0.2 gallon to 3.9, curb weight of the 2024 model is 6 lb lighter at 543 lb.
Unlocking the Phantom Zone
The middleweight cruiser market exploded during the Covid pandemic. The wave crested in 2021, but Miller said Honda is hoping the Shadow Phantom will bring in both new riders and existing cruiser fans looking for something new. I don’t know about the younger generation – in more ways than just their riding preferences – but I can say this Gen X cruiser guy sure enjoyed the ride.
The first thing I noticed when firing up the bike was the rumble, which was surprisingly satisfying for a Japanese bike with the stock exhaust. The Phantom continued to impress as we rolled through the streets of San Dimas, California. When we tested the 2013 Shadow Aero, it made 44.7 lb-ft of peak torque at the rear wheel, with more than 40 lb-ft available between 2,200 and 5,000 rpm. I appreciated that level of low-end grunt when pulling away from intersections in town, and it held its own as we climbed 6,000 feet on State Route 39 to Crystal Lake.
The rear suspension was a little squishy in some of the bumpier parts, but that was likely a result of the preload being set for someone a little lighter than my two-plus bills. Fortunately, the new saddle is nice and cushy and didn’t give me any grief during the four hours I was on it.
The pull on the clutch lever was a little heavy, and I would rate it “medium.” Since I own an older cruiser, it’s not anything new to me, but many bikes today are equipped with slip/assist clutches, and once you get used to this feature, you notice when it’s not there. I was okay with the lever pull – although a slip/assist clutch would’ve lightened it – but there was a moment going up the twisty, narrow one-way route to Crystal Lake where a quick downshift, combined with some debris in the road, gave a hop of the rear wheel on a curve that was a little bracing.
At just $8,399 ($8,699 for the ABS version), the 2024 Honda Shadow Phantom may not have all the bells and whistles, but it is a very attractive proposition for either a new rider or someone looking to add another steed to their stable from a segment without a lot of competition.
Only Breath and Shadow
I had only one other issue with the Phantom. The bike has a decent 27.4-degree lean angle. However, when I put the arch of my boot on the forward-mount footpegs, if I didn’t want my toe resting on the brake pedal, the heel of my boot found the road surface before the pegs did. This required a shifting of my right boot to various positions, none of which were as comfortable or confidence-inspiring as having the peg positioned directly under my arch.
This is not to say that I was high-speed slaloming up the canyon. In fact, I was the most conservative of the riders that day on the winding SR-39. As to those peg scrapes, I was once advised by my colleague and editor-in-chief of our sibling publication American Rider, Kevin Duke: “Ride your own ride, but challenge your limits when your confidence grows.”
So I did. Most riders won’t treat the Honda Shadow like a sportbike, but it certainly responded to my prodding enough to make it a spirited ride up the winding SR-39. When it comes to riding my own ride, I like to cruise, take in the scenery, breathe the air, and get my heart pumping enough to remember I’m alive.
If you are of a like mind, you’ll be very happy with the Phantom. And for those of you wondering if it’ll haul a little ass, the Phantom has something for you as well, as I can attest based on the taillights winking in the distance ahead of me from some of the other riders in my group.
The new Phantom has brought the Shadow into the light, and it looks to be a bright future indeed.
It’s the final quarter of the 2023 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, all of which will be contested in the Iberian Peninsula and it kicks off at MotorLand Aragon in the arid lands of central Spain. A place like no other, where the locals feel the passion, the Tissot Aragon Round has news and rumours aplenty with regards to 2024. As usual, all the best bits from Thursday’s media day are here. Enjoy all the latest silly season gossip here, too!
Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “I’m staying with BMW for two more years!”
Remaining in the BMW family for 2024 but being moved out of the factory team and into the Independent Bonovo Action BMW squad, Scott Redding spoke of his future being secured: “Finally, I can give an answer after some time! It’s a done deal; I’m staying with BMW for the future for two more years which is important for me. I believe in the project but it’s coming! I’m excited to work in Bonovo, it is a great atmosphere and a great team, so I’m not worried from that side. To be honest, I’m very happy. To stay in WorldSBK or any paddock at this moment is very difficult as riders are coming up. I’m looking forward to the journey. There’s been big changes in BMW this year and the steps forward are coming already ahead of next year, as is the momentum. The improvements of the bike were still coming; I think for the future, we can see bigger benefits. I look forward to making another step to where the bike should be. Garrett has been good on the bike this year and he’s impressed me a little bit.”
Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team): “We have a good friendship… he’ll push us even harder”
Michael van der Mark is confirmed as Toprak Razgatlioglu’s 2024 teammate: “It’s nice for me that I’m staying with the team; there’s a good group of people around me and I think it’s really nice to see the commitment of BMW. They’re pushing really hard and I’m proud to still be part of this plan. 2024 should be better than this year, but, unfortunately, that’s what I said this year! I’m pushing hard, I’m almost fully fit again; I just need to get some speed back. All four bikes next year will make a big step. First of all, Toprak’s always pushing so that’s really nice. We have a good friendship. It’s nice to have him there. He’s a fast teammate; without a doubt, he’s one of the fastest, if not the fastest, on track. He has a lot of experience and he’s fast. He’ll always push and he’ll push us even harder. Every year, we’re making steps but so is everyone else. We need to make a bigger step. It’s always difficult when you’re racing but looking at BMW’s plans for this project, they’re going to shift up a gear.”
Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK): “The Championship isn’t finished”
Taking another chunk out of Bautista’s lead in France, Toprak Razgatlioglu hopes to overcome his and Yamaha’s struggles at the technical Aragon venue: “I’m happy to be back at Aragon because it’s a really nice track. OK, we’re not really strong because of the unbelievable back straight which is very long. We keep fighting like before and try for the best position this weekend; I don’t know, maybe we’re fighting for the win or a podium. It won’t be an easy weekend but we’ll try our best. We’ll try a different setup and try to adapt. Nothing is finished, maybe Alvaro makes a mistake and it changes everything. We’ll keep fighting, the Championship isn’t finished. I’m very happy that Michael will be my teammate next year, he’s a good teammate, he’s funny and I love him! Next year, I think we’ll improve a lot together.”
Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “Anything is possible, you can’t expect anything”
Championship leader coming into the round and winner five times out of six aboard Ducati machinery, Alvaro Bautista previewed his weekend: “It’s always very special to race in Spain; it’s my home race so I will share the weekend with my friends, family and all the Spanish fans. Aragon is a challenging circuit with lots of different kinds of corners. The last test we did here three weeks ago, we had a good feeling and I hope to have the same feeling this weekend as the rest of the season so far. I’ll try to do my best and enjoy the weekend. I have good memories as I have won five races here with Ducati but also a podium with Honda. This track is really nice for me and I enjoy it a lot. However, in the races, anything is possible; in the end, you can’t expect anything.”
Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK): “The bike is in a good window… much better from the start of the year”
Seven podiums on the spin for Jonathan Rea as he touches down at the track where he’s won nine times at before, all with Kawasaki: “It’s a great circuit and we do a lot of testing here in the off-season as typically we get good weather here. I enjoy the layout with fast and flowing corners, it suits my style. I managed to win a race here last year and my 100th win in 2021 was nice, a huge milestone. I felt good with the bike in the test here; we’ll roll out with something like how we finished there, which is something like how the bike was at Magny-Cours, so it seems the bike is in a good window. The biggest step forward has been mentality; we started the season in bad shape, I have to take responsibility for that as well but also the bike was very challenging. We have to try and maximise our opportunities and then confidence comes up; this game is so punishing but when you have a bit of magic, it’s a lot easier. It’s much better from the start of the year.”
Michael Ruben Rinaldi (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati): “I’m as free as a bird… I don’t care about the pressure”
Competitive throughout Magny-Cours, a winner at Aragon in 2020 and looking for a ride in 2024, Michael Ruben Rinaldi knows this weekend is vital: “It’s a special track for me and there are positive vibes, however, the past is the past and we have to work for a strong weekend. I’m as free as a bird and I ride the bike because I enjoy it; I don’t care about the pressure or stuff like that. If it’s possible to achieve a podium or enjoy a fight like with Toprak in Race 1 at Magny-Cours, it’s OK but there’s no pressure if not. After the announcement that I won’t race again with Ducati, I received a lot of calls and that was a super nice thing. Teams want me and for sure, I’m looking to have a good project, bike and package to firstly stay relaxed but also to find a challenge where in some years, I can achieve great results. I haven’t decided my future but I think soon, I have to. We’ll see what happens.”
Iker Lecuona (Team HRC): “The target is to stay with Honda; the place or the spot, we’ll see”
With his and indeed Team HRC’s 2024 plans yet to be announced, Iker Lecuona gave his latest update: “It’s difficult to say; I hope that I can say something in a few weeks but like always, I am happy here, the target is to continue here but still, nothing is signed. You know the situation right now is difficult with many rumours. The target is to stay with Honda; then, the place or the spot, we’ll see. The podium is not realistic right now; the optimistic target is to finish in the top ten. My teammate or me are close but this year hasn’t been easy. We’ll see race by race.”
Garrett Gerloff (Bonovo Action BMW): “I know we can do this… I am sad for Loris”
With his 2024 teammate confirmed as being Scott Redding, Garrett Gerloff spoke of next year, as well as being the form guy after a stellar weekend at Magny-Cours: “The whole year, we’ve been making small steps but it is so nice when it all comes together. You’re in a different category, so it was nice to break out at mid-pack and go higher. I know we can do more and we had the test here a few weeks ago and it wasn’t the best, which was why Magny-Cours was a little bit of a surprise. It felt better and it didn’t feel that way here. Hopefully, changes at Magny-Cours will help us this weekend too. We’ll try and bring the same energy. I know we can do this; the focus we all have, it’s just trying to put everything together. Having a P4 was good momentum, as was the pole position, so when everything goes right, we can be the guys to beat. I like Scott, I’ve known him since 2013 at Colin Edwards’ bootcamp, when he rode my 125cc which was quite funny! He’s a good guy, a fast racer and it’ll be good to see him stay with BMW. I am sad for Loris though, as he’s been a great teammate and friend. He deserves the best and I wish him the best for whatever he does next.”
Xavi Vierge (Team HRC): “We expect to be more competitive”
Like teammate Iker Lecuona, Xavi Vierge’s future has also yet to be confirmed, but he’s looking forward to the Aragon weekend nonetheless: “Magny-Cours was hard, but it was harder after the crash on Friday. We come to Aragon, a home round is always special and we have been testing here. The feeling was good, and we expect to be more competitive at this kind of track. Right now, we are too far away from the podium. This kind of track is better for us. We are more competitive. A podium will be really difficult, but our goal needs to be fighting for that. There’s no news on my future. We still need to wait a little bit longer; every time, it’s getting closer.”
Following the news that Michael van der Mark (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) will partner Toprak Razgatlioglu in the factory BMW outfit for 2024 and that Scott Redding (ROKiT BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team) will move across to the Bonovo Action BMW team alongside existing rider Garrett Gerloff, there’s no room at the BMW Inn for Loris Baz (Bonovo Action BMW). The popular Frenchman, who is in his second season with Jurgen Roder’s German outfit, is now one of the key names on the market for next year and time is ticking in terms of what he’ll do. Enjoy all the latest silly season gossip here, too!
However, in true Loris Baz style and determination, he was back at the next round six weeks later at Assen, although no points were rewarded for his efforts. Just two more points-scoring finishes were registered as he fought back to full fitness, until a fine eighth place at Imola put a smile back on his and the team’s face. In the last nine races, six top ten finishes from nine, with a best result of seventh coming in Race 2 at Imola and matched at home at Magny-Cours in the Superpole Race.
Speaking of the news that he’s surplus to requirements within BMW for 2024, Baz said: “I’m OK and I expected this decision, so it hasn’t come from nowhere. I’m working on my future with my manager, trying to find the best option and doing everything I can to stay in WorldSBK. It’s a bit early to know what I can do, but I want to stay here.”
This isn’t the first time that Baz has been the odd one out when it comes to the annual game of musical chairs. In 2014, it was announced that Jonathan Rea would replace him at Kawasaki for 2015, although Baz sought refuge in MotoGP™ with Forward Racing. The team withdrew at the end of 2015, but he moved to the Aspar Ducati outfit until the end of 2017, when he lost his ride to Karel Abraham.
Baz was back to WorldSBK in 2018 with the Althea BMW but was then without a ride for 2019 as the team joined up with Honda’s hybrid-official effort. Halfway through 2019, he was back on the grid with Ten Kate Racing Yamaha, themselves having to leave long-term partners Honda for 2019 with Baz and the Dutch team together until the end of 2020, achieving two podiums. However, Ten Kate scaled back their WorldSBK effort, instead dedicating their resources to their roots in WorldSSP, leaving Baz out of work again before he found the Warhorse Ducati ride in MotoAmerica. However, a stand-in ride at Portimao for the injured Chaz Davies gave a podium, putting him in the shop window and thus joining Bonovo Action BMW for 2022 as part of the team’s expansion to two riders, alongside Eugene Laverty.
Baz’s manager is none other than Eric Mahe, former manager to 2021 MotoGP™ World Champion Fabio Quartararo. Baz continued to look to the future and praised Eric for the work he’s done already: “I’m lucky enough to have one of the best managers around; we have three rounds remaining with Bonovo and they’re a great group of guys, so they deserve the best for myself and we’ll try to have fun on the bike as much as we can. We’ll see what my manager brings me between rounds.”
With factory seats being confirmed for the 2024 MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship, one rider is becoming a key player in the rider market. Axel Bassani (Motocorsa Racing) has made his despite for a factory seat clear since he burst onto the WorldSBK scene, and he confirmed talks with teams regarding his future. Although he could not provide an answer about where he will ride next season, the #47 did reveal, when directly asked, that talks were ongoing with Kawasaki
A seat became available following Jonathan Rea’s (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) shock move to Yamaha for 2024 and 2025, with the Japanese manufacturer now looking for a replacement. With Yamaha locking in Rea and Andrea Locatelli (Pata Yamaha Prometeon WorldSBK), Ducati keeping Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) and bringing in Nicolo Bulega and BMW yesterday announcing their line-up, it leaves only Honda and Kawasaki to confirm their full line-up.
Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing team WorldSBK) will remain with the team after penning a new deal with Kawasaki, but who will be alongside him in the box has not yet been confirmed. Adrian Huertas (MTM Kawasaki) tested for them at Aragon, but he has since become Bulega’s replacement at the Aruba.it Racing WorldSSP Team, with Rea’s vacant seat still waiting for a new occupant for next season and beyond.
When asked about his future, and specifically about potentially having a factory seat in green, the Feltre-born star said: “I can’t say a lot. We are speaking with some teams, and we are trying to find a good solution for next year. For the moment, I can’t speak. This is the reality. I hope, this week or next week, I can say something. We are speaking with Kawasaki. For sure, we want a factory team, and we want to find a good solution for me and for them. We will see what happens in the next days.”
Bassani made his WorldSBK debut in 2021 and it didn’t take long for his talent and potential to shine. He took his first podium in Barcelona that year, after leading the race, before three more followed in 2022. So far this season, the Italian has two rostrums to his name with both coming on home soil, although he is still chasing a first win. With a move to Ducati now impossible following Bulega’s promotion from WorldSSP, could his future lie away from the Italian brand where he’s enjoyed plenty of success in a short space of time?
After being forced out of the final two races at the previous MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship round in France, Alex Lowes (Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK) underwent an operation to remove the damaged meniscus from his left knee shortly afterwards. Despite this, the decision has now been taken to withdraw Alex from the Tissot Aragon Round. The team’s regular test rider, Florian Marino, will take over the second official Ninja ZX-10RR machine this coming weekend, lining up alongside Jonathan Rea. Action commences from the 22nd September until the 24th.
Talking about missing the Aragon Round, where he was strong before on Kawasaki machinery, Lowes stated: “After Magny-Cours, I took the tough decision to go to Barcelona to have surgery on my knee. The operation went well. Since then, I have been fully focused on my recovery and working as hard as possible. Physically, I feel good and in a position where I could ride. However, the team have decided the best option is to wait for Portugal next weekend. I respect their decision and switch my focus toward supporting Florian, Jonathan and the team, whilst improving myself in time for the next event in Portimao. It’s a shame because I showed some strong speed in the recent Aragon test and Magny-Cours weekend. They are behind us now, and it’s time to look forward and try to get on the podium again before the end of the 2023 season.”
With WorldSSP podiums and a WorldSBK points-scoring ride five years ago, Florian Marino looks forward to getting stuck in:. “First of all, I wish the best recovery to my friend and rider Alex Lowes. I know he will come back stronger and racing very soon. For me it’s a great opportunity as a test rider for KRT. I think this weekend will also help me to improve my understanding of the Kawasaki ZX-10RR and of course I can’t wait to work with the technical crew. Personally, I have no expectation, I’m just going to try to make the most of the opportunity for everyone involved. Thank you Kawasaki and Provec Racing for the trust!”
Guim Roda, KRT Team Manager, wished Lowes a speedy recovery and looked ahead to the weekend: “We decided to make Alex rest at home for this round but he is training hard to be at 110% for the Portimao round. Just nine days after a knee operation, we didn’t want to force his body into the stresses of racing, to let him recover correctly. We could keep one bike in the pit box for one race, but alongside KMC Japan we decide to give Florian a chance to race. He already has the test rider job for KRT, so he will run at Aragon and keep collecting data to develop the bike in real race conditions. It’ll be a good way to see the rhythm he is able to get to as he will keep working in the winter months to test items at the very top level.”